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Nuclear Power Plant Design and Seismic Safety Considerations

Nuclear Power Plant Design and Seismic Safety Considerations

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Published by Chuck Achberger
Summary

Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the seismic criteria applied to siting commercial nuclear power plants operating in the United States have received increased attention; particularly the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) 2010 reassessment of seismic risks at certain plant sites.
Summary

Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the seismic criteria applied to siting commercial nuclear power plants operating in the United States have received increased attention; particularly the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) 2010 reassessment of seismic risks at certain plant sites.

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Published by: Chuck Achberger on Jul 06, 2011
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07/14/2011

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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Nuclear Power Plant Design and SeismicSafety Considerations
Anthony Andrews
Specialist in Energy and Defense PolicyMay 2, 2011
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govR41805
 
Nuclear Power Plant Design and Seismic Safety ConsiderationsCongressional Research Service
Summary
Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichinuclear power station, the seismic criteria applied to siting commercial nuclear power plantsoperating in the United States have received increased attention; particularly the NuclearRegulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) 2010 reassessment of seismic risks at certain plant sites.Commercial nuclear power plants operating in the United States vary considerably, as most werecustom-designed and custom-built. Boiling water reactors (BWRs) directly generate steam insidethe reactor vessel. Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) use heat exchangers to convert the heatgenerated by the reactor core into steam outside of the reactor vessel. U.S. utilities currentlyoperate 104 nuclear power reactors at 65 sites in 31 states; 69 are PWR designs and the 35remaining are BWR designs.One of the most severe operating conditions for a reactor is a loss of coolant accident (LOCA),which can lead to a reactor core meltdown. The emergency core cooling system (ECCS) providescore cooling to minimize fuel damage by injecting large amounts of cool, borated water into thereactor coolant system following a pipe rupture or other water loss, and (secondarily) to provideextra neutron poisons to ensure the reactor remains shut down. The ECCS must be sized toprovide adequate make-up water to compensate for a break of the largest diameter pipe in theprimary system (i.e., the so-called “double-ended guillotine break” (DEGB)). However, the NRCconsiders the DEGB to be an extremely unlikely event. Nevertheless, even unlikely events canoccur, as the combined tsunami and magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Fukushima Daiichiproves.U.S. nuclear power plants have designs based on Deterministic Seismic Hazard Analysis(DSHA). Since then, Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis (PSHA) has been adopted as a morecomprehensive approach in engineering practice. Consequently, the NRC is reassessing theprobability of seismic core damage at existing plants.In 2008, the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) released an update of the National Seismic HazardMaps (NSHM). USGS notes that the 2008 hazard maps differ significantly from the 2002 maps inmany parts of the United States, and generally show 10%-15% reductions in spectral and peak ground acceleration across much of the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS), and about10% reductions for spectral and peak horizontal ground acceleration in the Western United States(WUS). Seismic hazards are greatest in the WUS, particularly in California, Oregon, andWashington, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.In 2010, NRC published its GI-199 Safety/Risk Assessment; a two-stage assessment of theimplications of USGS updated probabilistic seismic hazards analysis in the CEUS on existingnuclear power plants sites. NRC does not rank nuclear plants by seismic risk. NRC’s objective inGI-199 was to evaluate the need for further investigations of seismic safety for operating reactorsin the CEUS. The data evaluated in the assessment suggest that the probability for earthquakeground motion above the seismic design basis for some nuclear plants in the CEUS, although stilllow, is larger than previous estimates. In late March 2011, NRC announced that it had identified27 nuclear reactors operating in the CEUS that would receive priority earthquake safety reviews.
 
Nuclear Power Plant Design and Seismic Safety ConsiderationsCongressional Research Service
Contents
Background on Seismic Standards...............................................................................................1
 
Nuclear Power Plant Designs......................................................................................................2
 
Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Systems.................................................................................3
 
Safe-Shutdown Condition...............................................................................................4
 
Loss of Coolant Accident................................................................................................4
 
BWR Design Evolution...................................................................................................5
 
Pressurized Water Reactor Systems.......................................................................................8
 
PWR Design Configurations...........................................................................................9
 
Safe Shutdown Condition..............................................................................................10
 
Loss of Coolant Accident..............................................................................................10
 
Containment Structure Designs...........................................................................................11
 
Nuclear Power Plants Operating in the United States...........................................................13
 
Plant Seismic Siting Criteria......................................................................................................16
 
General Design Criteria.......................................................................................................16
 
Site Investigations...............................................................................................................17
 
Safe Shutdown Earthquake Condition.................................................................................18
 
National Seismic Hazard Maps............................................................................................20
 
NRC Priority Earthquake Safety Review.............................................................................24
 
Recent Legislative Activities.....................................................................................................25
 
Figures
Figure 1. Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Plant.............................................................................4
 
Figure 2. GE BWR / Mark I Containment Structure.....................................................................6
 
Figure 3. General Electric Mark II Containment Structure...........................................................7
 
Figure 4. General Electric Mark III Containment Structure..........................................................8
 
Figure 5. Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) Plant.......................................................................9
 
Figure 6. Commercial Nuclear Power Plants Operating in the United States..............................14
 
Figure 7. Spectral Acceleration 5 Hz.........................................................................................19
 
Figure 8. Operating Nuclear Power Plant Sites and Seismic Hazard...........................................22
 
Figure 9. Operating Nuclear Power Plant Sites and Mapped Quaternary Faults..........................23
 
Figure A-1. Spectral Acceleration (
g
) vs. Frequency (Hz)..........................................................28
 
Tables
Table 1. Reactor Type, Vendor, and Containment.........................................................................3
 
Table 2. BWR Design Evolution.................................................................................................5
 
Table 3. Containment Building Design Parameters....................................................................12
 
Table 4. Operating Nuclear Power Plants Subject to Earthquake Safety Reviews.......................24
 

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